The 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament is spearheaded by overall No. 1 seed, Baylor, which will fight tooth-and-nail through its respective region that features No. 2 Iowa and No. 3 NC State.
For the first time in a long time, though, this year’s postseason clash is deeply rooted by not just one obvious champion, but several. In the Albany region, for example, No. 1 Louisville could be on a collision course with the No. 2 UConn Huskies — but that’s if all the stars align. On the unsettling side of things, teams that could bust upstate New York wide open are sleepers: No. 10 Buffalo and No. 13 Boise State.
The first round will tip off on Friday, Mar. 22, at 12 p.m. ET when No. 1 Louisville plays host to the lowest-ranked team on the totem pole: No. 16 Robert Morris.
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 16 Robert Morris
Hopefully, Robert Morris’s Nneka Ezeigbo (per game: 12.6 points, 7.8 rebounds) won’t be too intimidated by Louisville’s triple threat — Asia Durr, Arica Carter and Sam Fuehring. So long as the Cardinals remain a healthy starting five, getting past the Colonials should be a cake walk.
Prediction: Louisville wins easily at home to advance to the second round to play the winner of No. 8 Michigan/No. 9 Kansas State.
No. 2 UConn vs. No. 15 Towson
Katie Lou Samuelson should be in healthy form in time for UConn’s first game of the 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. With or without Samuelson, the Huskies have proven that there’s hidden talent in their roster, as was the case with freshman Olivia Nelson-Ododa in Sameulson’s late-season absence.
Prediction: UConn wins with ease in Storrs to advance to the second round to play the winner of No. 7 Rutgers/No. 10 Buffalo.
No. 3 Maryland vs. No. 14 Radford
The Terrapins’ offense does not scream EXPLOSIVE at first, which makes them the softest-spoken team of the entire region. Thankfully, they have an easy first-round matchup against No. 14 Radford, which put up only 54 points to University of South Carolina Upstate.
Prediction: Maryland wins easily to advance to the second round to play the winner of No. 6 UCLA/No. 11 Tennessee.
No. 4 Oregon State vs. No. 13 Boise State
This will be the most underrated game in the region — both Oregon State and Boise State have multiple games of scoring over 85 points (Oregon State — 9, Boise State — 8). Given that the Mountain West Conference is incomparable to the surprisingly competitive nature of the Pac-12, the Broncos have a chance to pull away with an upset on Beaver turf.
Prediction: Boise State will pull off this particular first round’s only upset, advancing to play the winner of No. 5 Gonzaga/No. 13 Little Rock.
No. 5 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 Little Rock
The Bulldogs of Gonzaga should be considered Albany’s sleeper leading up to the Sweet Sixteen. While they have been battle-tested only three times (Notre Dame, Stanford, Rutgers) during the 2018-19 season, there’s an arsenal of talent — four players have over 140 total rebounds and four players have converted 45 percent of their shots — that could break some hearts.
Prediction: Gonzaga will move on to the second round to play the winner of No. 4 Oregon State/No. 13 Boise State.
No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 11 Tennessee
Though the Lady Vols made it to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals against Mississippi State, UCLA is more than willing to halt that momentum. Unlike Tennessee’s unimpressive wins resume, the Bruins have bragging rights, such as a 74-69 win over then-No. 2 Oregon in late-February.
Prediction: UCLA will advance to the second round to play the winner of No. 3 Maryland/No. 14 Radford.
No. 7 Rutgers vs. No. 10 Buffalo
Unfortunate for the Scarlet Knights, Buffalo does own some advantages, like scoring offense (per game: Buffalo — 76.1, Rutgers — 63.9), over the higher seed. Cierra Dillard and Summer Hemphill are both the Bulls’ best opportunities to upset the Big Ten’s third-best team of the 2018-19 regular season.
Prediction: Rutgers will be pushed around, but a late surge will power them to the second round against the winner of No. 2 UConn/No. 15 Towson.
No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 9 Kansas State
When it comes to bracket busting, the No. 8 vs. No. 9 seeds are the least predictable. In this particular matchup, the Lady Wolverines have the sleight of hand over the Wildcats (65 points per game) in terms of scoring (72 points per game). One player-player matchup to keep an eye on is Michigan’s Naz Hillmon (per game: 13.2 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Kansas State’s Peyton Williams (per game: 15.9 points, 9.6 rebounds).
Prediction: Michigan will win, but not by much, to advance to the second around against No. 1 Louisville/No. 16 Robert Morris.
The 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament tips off Friday! The dates and viewing information for the first two rounds are provided below. Return to Swish Appeal for previews and recaps of each day of tournament action. The previews will include individual game times.
When: Friday, March 22; Saturday, March 23
Where: Campus sites (teams seeded 1-4 host)
How to watch: ESPN2, WatchESPN
When: Sunday, March 24; Monday, March 25
Where: Campus sites (teams seeded 1-4 host)
How to watch: ESPN, ESPN2, WatchESPN